I will be transitioning from a developer role to a lead/project manager role soon, at a new job. I am not clear how Project Managers spend their day. I have asked this question to my friends and they said all the day goes in meetings and they are always busy. Do meetings really take a large amount of time for a PM?

Is it possible to define, in general terms, how PMs allocate their time, over a working day, to key activities such as Meetings with development, Admin and Stakeholder Management? Can these be expressed as percentages of the working day?

Do Project Managers typically find themselves with little to do in a standard working day?

  • 5
    90% of project management is communication.
    – MCW
    Mar 18, 2016 at 11:18
  • 4
    And the other 90% is being able to work with numbers. Mar 18, 2016 at 11:24
  • I have made massive changes to your question in an attempt to focus on an answerable question which will also help your thinking as you transition from one role to another. It is still close to the border of Off-Topic, but hopefully may escape closure long enough to attract some useful answers. You need to escape from a common mode of thinking about Project Management whereby if you have ticked all the activities off you have somehow "done" project management. Reverse my edits if you disagree with the change of focus, but note your original question was (rightly) attracting close votes.
    – Marv Mills
    Mar 18, 2016 at 13:12
  • My question is specific to software project management. FYI Mar 18, 2016 at 14:51
  • Your question may already be answered (at least for Scrum) here: pm.stackexchange.com/a/8520/4271.
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Mar 18, 2016 at 19:07

4 Answers 4


I think I understand where you're coming from. I transitioned more or less organically from developer to PM role a few years ago. The thing is that PM "work" doesn't look like the kind of "work" that you're used to.

It took me a good while to get used to this: I'd get to the end of the day, and I knew I'd been working hard all day because I was exhausted, but there was rarely anything concrete that I could point to and say "that's what I did today." It's not like I had closed any tickets, or fixed any bugs, or written so many lines of code.

The part that took me completely by surprise was how much outward-facing management work there was: planning, writing reports, updating metrics, and generally translating upward across the technical-management interface layer. I'd had no idea how much of that my PM had been doing, while protecting us developers from being distracted by it.

So, it is not possible to prescribe time spent daily on key activities for several reasons:

  • the overall balance of activities will depend on the approach to project management used in the company. Eg, an agile style may spend more time facilitating sprint work while a more traditional style may spend more time writing schedules and reports.
  • it will depend on where you are in your project's development cycle (as Marv commented above) and in your company's reporting cycle.
  • part of a PM's job is to manage and solve problems, which means you will be interrupt-driven because problems don't make appointments. :)
  • part of a PM's job is communication in all directions, which also tends to result in an interrupt-driven day.

That interrupt-driven part might be why you think PMs might have "little to do". If you frequently walk into your PM's office and find that she's immediately available to talk to you, it doesn't mean she wasn't busy: it means she's interrupting what she was working on (probably schedules or planning or metrics or reports, something involving Microsoft Office or equivalent) to prioritize what you need from her to do your work, because that's her job.

I'd suggest you try to connect with a more experienced PM at your new job who knows how things are done there to help you learn the ropes. Good luck!

  • Agree with not being able to point to one thing as your day's achievement. I would also suggest that the OP set goals (preferably, meet with his manager to set expectations) in order to track progress throughout the year; not just the project's progress, but also the progress of the new PM in adjusting to the work.
    – Pedro
    Mar 19, 2016 at 4:32
  • This is useful , waiting for any other solutions for some time. Mar 19, 2016 at 11:50

You're transitioning from discrete or apportioned activities to level of effort activities.

Introduction to Discrete, Level of Efforts and Apportioned Efforts


No it's not. PM activities hardly depend on an industry, company culture, project. And even if we will take a look at a typical workday of PM we shall find no similarities to create a standard.

If you find PM goofing-off and clock watching there is two extremes, either you don't need a PM or he is enlightened master who set up the team process so good that he deserves his free time.

Let's say not meetings but communication consumes plenty of PM's time.

One more thing. Get your self a time tracker to determine whachadoin.




  • 1
    We should not forget the typical mid-project slump in requirements on PM time: Once everything is planned and underway, often there is reduced need for the PM as things run in an organised way. Then towards the end of projects there are again greater demands on a PM's time. This is not universal, and if a lot of risk and issue management is required then the PM needs to maintain their level of engagement, but it is the norm in my experience.
    – Marv Mills
    Mar 18, 2016 at 14:08


Rightly or wrongly, project managers are generally measured against the success of their projects and those projects' adherence to a schedule or budget, rather than against a daily breakdown of the PM's allocated time. While every project management framework has an expected percentage of process overhead, this overhead isn't really meaningful in terms of measuring the PM's adherence to a schedule on an individual level. Even if it were possible, it wouldn't be a useful performance indicator for the project management role.

Measuring Project Management

Is it possible to define, in general terms, how PMs allocate their time, over a working day, to key activities such as Meetings with development, Admin and Stakeholder Management? Can these be expressed as percentages of the working day?

If you take a step back, what you're really trying to do here is to define performance indicators or trackable metrics for success as a project manager. However, how much time you spend on particular activities is not how you measure success in the role. Instead, a project manager should be measured by how effectively they control the project (when given sufficient authority to actually do so), or how well they evangelize or communicate about the project within the organization.

Some meaningful measures of project management effectiveness include:

  • Communications velocity (e.g. how quickly project information travels through organizational channels).
  • Reporting accuracy.
  • Transparency of project status.
  • Effectiveness at facilitating team and stakeholder meetings.
  • Ability to store and retrieve essential project management artifacts.

Some common but hard-to-measure (and therefore potentially less useful) metrics of efficacy may also include:

  • Ability to quickly identify projects that are out of tolerance.
  • Ability to use influence in roles without sufficient formal authority.
  • Ability to collaborate with task performers and stakeholders to mitigate project risks as they are uncovered.

It is often the case that project managers will be praised or blamed for the status of a project, even if they have no actual control over the outcome. However, the best project managers do influence the outcome of projects. They can justifiably take credit for designing and implementing project controls that keep the project within tolerances, or informing management in a timely fashion when a project can't be salvaged.

Communications is really the central key performance indicator for project managers, and communication tasks are where successful project managers spend the majority of their time outside of reporting and other framework-specific ceremonies. If your day isn't filled with communications-related tasks of one sort or another—allowing for sufficient slack to handle interrupt-driven issues, of course—then you're probably not focused on the right things within the role.

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